Hong Kong is a place brimming with talented and intriguing people. In our weekly 27 Questions column, we get up close and personal with the city’s notable personalities, learning about their whims and aversions, pivotal life moments, and hopes and dreams — all in roughly the same amount of time it takes to sit through a 2-minute speed date. This week, we sit down with Christophe Younes to learn more about his brand, Paul Lafayet.
Paul Lafayet is a family affair.
20 years ago, there were not many options for French patisseries in Hong Kong; one would have to venture into five-star hotels to be able to enjoy a traditional French dessert. Noticing a gap in the market, father-and-son duo Toni and Christophe Younes launched Paul Lafayet in 2009 with their first petite shop in K11 Art Mall, coinciding with the opening of the shopping centre.
“It’s really grown from a passion of fine foods in our family,” says Younes. “Cooking and baking were big passions in the family so we decided to share this with our new hometown here in Hong Kong. Quite frankly, the influence of my father as an entrepreneur always resonated with me. I was always keen to have my own project.”
“I pretty much spent the first half of my life in France, then the other half in Hong Kong,” he explains. “The local palate was definitely keen on new, quality products. We launched with a promise to deliver the finest French patisserie with the finest ingredients, which we kept! You will find some traditional French cake with a modern touch. Our Crème Brûlée has been the signature of Paul Lafayet, representing a classic French dessert revisited with a new recipe and very premium raw materials.”
With eight stores in Hong Kong already, the Younes family is keen on continuing to spread the love of good French pastries.
“We will have 12 shops here by end of 2022! Our e-commerce platform was launched in 2020 and has been growing rapidly, so it is also a big focus. An expansion in China is on its way, too, once the pandemic calms down,” says Younes. “I am really proud we succeeded in creating a brand from scratch which survived the pandemic and the ultra-competitive environment in Hong Kong. It comes with really hard work, creative thinking, open mind and persistence.”
For the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival, Paul Lafayet has just launched their Artistic Mooncake Gift Box in collaboration with French illustrator Emilie Sarnel. The octagonal two-layered gift box consists of four locally produced custard and tea mooncakes with and four corresponding top-quality loose leaf tea selections. Check out Paul Lafayet’s delicious selections here.
Name: Christophe Younes
Neighbourhood: Across the city
Occupation: Co-founder of Paul Lafayet, looking out for the new favourite dessert of a sweet tooth!
1. What is your life motto?
You will always be relevant if you remain creative.
2. What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten in Hong Kong?
Tough one. It depends on what I crave, but I would say it will be either a Peking duck and crispy tofu at The Chinese Restaurant of Hyatt Regency, or a fresh seafood meal at one of the finest floating villages. I have a sweet tooth so they’d have to be followed by a bubble waffle from a street shop and a Crème Brûlée from Paul Lafayet.
3. What is your drink of choice?
Coffee. Best morning ritual: early cup of Americano, refill until lunch.
4. What is the best thing in or about your apartment?
How tiny the kitchen is but how much I can still prep with it!
5. Are you a morning person or a night owl?
Disappointingly, neither nor. I’m pretty much a 730am-11pm person. I’d say, the more the years go by, the earlier I start to rise.
6. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
If I only ate one thing for the rest of my life, life would not be worth living.
7. What do you hate most about living in Hong Kong?
There is nothing to hate about Hong Kong, it is a magical place, but it is challenging to promote creativity in such a dense and fast paced city.
8. What is the top destination on your bucket list?
I have been weirdly stuck on this idea of scuba diving in Iceland between the two tectonic plates where the water is the clearest in the world.
9. How often do you prepare your own meals?
Daily. Part of my habit: clean and balanced diet. I have been tracking my food for majority of last year. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t restrain myself, I simply want to understand what I eat.
10. When did you last ride the Star Ferry? What were you doing/where did you go?
Last week. Once every couple of weeks, I’ll go with a couple of friends to Tsim Sha Tsui for Korean BBQ.
11. What is your typical Sunday like?
Being outdoors with family or close friends. A glass of rose at dinner.
12. What makes someone a real Hongkonger?
The ability to pick a good egg tart. Soon, it will be picking a good Crème Brûlée too!
13. If you had to describe Hong Kong in one word, what would it be?
14. What’s your favourite childhood memory?
The first wedding I attended when I was a kid in a beautiful valley of Lebanon. Really felt magical in every way.
15. What is one thing you’ve never revealed to your parents?
Nothing. I am quite sure, with age, I opened up completely. I’ve always wanted to talk openly with my closed ones.
16. What is your favourite scent in the whole world?
17. Are you a good cook? What is your best dish?
I am… not bad in the kitchen. Put it this way, whatever you have in your fridge, I will able to make it taste good!
18. Who is the best teacher you’ve ever had, what is one important lesson that they taught you?
My philosophy teacher: he said most of our persona is defined in our early years. While it may be true, I try to keep an open mind to let the present define me as well.
19. What is your unique party trick?
I’d have to show you, it can’t be written on a paper…
20. Have you ever experienced love at first sight? Tell us about it.
Is it too cheesy… when I say when I had my first spoonful of our Crème Brûlée?
21. How many countries have you been to?
North of 30. My parents always had us travel.
22. When did you feel that you ‘made it’?
I think there are several moments. First one was to be financially independent. Second one, when there was success business-wise and personally. Being surrounded by close family and great friends. More to come.
23. What’s the best or worst career advice you’ve ever received?
Best: If you want to sell something to someone, ask questions.
24. What energises you about your work?
People’s face when you tell them you are part of the Paul Lafayet family!
25. What’s your favourite tradition?
My annual ski trip with my high school friends.
26. If you could snap your fingers and fix one thing about the world, what would it be?
27. Your go-to coffee order?
Used to be a latte. Now it’s an Americano. People change.